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Kansas City hospitals overwhelmed, some forced to divert ambulances as COVID-19 cases jump

Hospitals in and around Kansas City, Missouri, are overwhelmed amid a troubling spike in COVID-19 cases that has forced some facilitates to refuse non-emergency care and others to turn away ambulances due to over-occupancy.

Average daily COVID-19 hospitalizations were up about 10% this week across the Kansas City region as the Midwest grapples with record-breaking daily infection rates and intensive care unit bed shortages, according to the Mid-America Regional Council’s dashboard.

Earlier this week, the Kansas City metro area saw its highest number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations on record with the seven-day average rising to about 133. Separately, hospitals in the area reported a 28% increase in the average number of patients on ventilators, week-over-week, while daily ICU occupancy rose about 11% from last week, according to the dashboard.

All in all, total weekly hospitalizations jumped to 867, compared to 835 last week, pushing several area hospitals to refuse ambulances due to lack of beds.

Marc Larsen, operations director of Saint Luke’s COVID Response Team, the second-largest care provider in the region, said Kansas City area hospitals are “bursting at the seams.”

Hospitals being ‘pushed to the brink’

Saint Luke’s daily patient average rose to about 85 for the month of October, compared to about 63 per day in September, Larsen said. The system reported a daily patient average of only about 15 COVID-19 patients a day in May and June.

“The current trajectory and the rapid increase in infections is a big concern for me,” Larsen told ABC News in an interview Friday. “And with our numbers where they are coming into influenza season, I worry that the facilities will continue to be pushed to the brink on our ability to care for each and every single one of these patients like we need to.”

He added, “As a result, our emergency departments and having to leverage alternative care units in our facilities, meaning that we wind up seeing emergency department patients in our pre-anesthesia care units, recovery rooms and sometimes in waiting rooms.”

PHOTO: Fans take in a flyover before the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 11, 2020.

Fans take in a flyover before the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 11, 2020.

Larsen, who is also an emergency care physician at the downtown Kansas City hospital, said at least eight metro hospitals and emergency departments had to temporarily stop accepting ambulances due to the high volume of patients on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We had eight facilities at one given time that were on ‘diversion,’ or what we call high-volume status,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t still take the time-critical diagnoses — we still take our stroke patients, our trauma patients and our heart attack patients — but it does limit our ability to provide care to the remainder of ambulances.”

“When we get to that volume and when we get to that

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